Andreas Bitterer

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Andreas Bitterer
Research VP
9 years at Gartner
27 years IT industry

Andreas Bitterer is a research vice president in Gartner, where he specializes in business intelligence, data integration and data quality, with expertise in analytical applications, data warehousing and information management.Read Full Bio

Von Populismus und Heckenschützen

by Andy Bitterer  |  February 25, 2009  |  2 Comments

This post is in German since it refers to an event and a related article in Germany.

Die Hamburger IT Strategietage sind hier in Hamburg kürzlich zu Ende gegangen, als mich eine Email eines Kollegen erreicht mit einem Link zu einem Artikel des bekannten CIO Magazins. Darin wird von einem Panel berichtet, das sich mit Vorhersagen im allgemeinen und der derzeitigen Finanzkrise beschäftigt. Da ich selbst nicht im Raum war, kann ich mich nur auf die beschriebenen Aussagen im Artikel von Autorin Chrstiane Pütter beziehen.

An einer Stelle im genannten Artikel werden Gartner, die Analysten, und der Magic Quadrant erwähnt und das hat natürlich meine Aufmerksamkeit bekommen. Dort steht:

Mit einer anderen Aussage nahm sich Fröschl die Analysten vor.

Gemeint ist Dr. Friedrich Fröschl, seines Zeichens Chef einer kleinen Private Equity Firma in München. Welchen Fokus, welches Portfolio und welche Erfolge die HI TEC Invest bisher hatte, ist aus der dünnen Website leider nicht zu erkennen. Fröschl selbst läßt sich gerne noch immer als Ex-CIO von Siemens titulieren, obwohl er dort schon 2004 verärgert ausgeschieden ist. Zu der genannten Podiumsdiskussion wurde Fröschl augenscheinlich als “Agent Provokateur” begrüßt, und diese Rolle hat er durch seine Aussagen auch voll erfüllt.

Wer als Provokateur auftritt, erwartet ja wohl eine Reaktion. So soll es denn sein.

“Gartner-Quadranten sagen wenig über die Zukunft aus”, sagte er.

Es ist mir nicht bekannt, ob oder wann zuletzt Fröschl mit einem Gartner Analysten gesprochen hat, sonst hätte man Fröschl gegebenenfalls den Magic Quadrant erklärt. Fröschl impliziert, daß Gartner behauptet, ein Magic Quadrant könne die Zukunft voraussagen. Dem ist natürlich nicht so. Selbstverständlich wird dort ein gewisses Potenzial abgebildet, was sich aus den angelegten Evaluierungskriterien (Größe, Wachstum, Verkäufe, Umsätze, Mitarbeiter, Produktportfolio, R&D Investments, Allianzen, usw.) ergibt. Als alleinige Entscheidungsgrundlage für zukünftige IT Investitionen in einem bestimmten Markt ist ein Magic Quadrant nicht positioniert.

Erfolgreiche Unternehmen tauchen oft erst spät bei den Analysten auf. Der vierte Quadrant biete keine Investitionssicherheit.

Diese Aussage kann man so nicht stehen lassen. Zunächst mal ist “Erfolg” immer relativ. Eine beliebige Garagenbude mag schönen Erfolg haben, das heißt aber nicht, daß irgendein Analyst davon gehört haben muß, oder daß diese “Firma” überhaupt relevant ist.

Ob Unternehmen mit gewissem Erfolg erst “spät” (was bedeutet das?) von den Analysten wahrgenommen werden, kann Fröschl mit Sicherheit nicht beurteilen. Es ist sicher nicht so, daß wir über jede Entwicklung eines Mini-Unternehmens gleich einen Bericht schreiben. Trotzdem kann diese Firma über Jahre auf dem Analysten-Radar sein.

Der “vierte Quadrant”? Die Quadranten sind zwar nicht numeriert, und der “vierte” wäre bei normaler Zählung auch nicht rechts oben, aber ich vermute es geht um die “Leaders.” Der Magic Quadrant und insbesondere der Leaders Quadrant ist nicht das Vehikel um Investitionssicherheit zu gewährleisten. Zwar ist die Stabilität eines Herstellers im “Leaders Quadrant” wahrscheinlich höher als die eines Nischenanbieters, aber eine Investitionssicherheit läßt sich eben nicht an der Position eines Pünktchens auf einem Quadranten festmachen. Das wird auch von Gartner niemals so behauptet.

Um es nochmal deutlich zu machen, der Magic Quadrant und insbesondere der “Leaders” Quadrant soll nicht als einzige Grundlage für Investitionsentscheidungen herhalten. Trotzdem wird er immer wieder als genau das benutzt. Es ist im übrigen auch nicht der Fehler des Magic Quadrant, wenn ein Entscheider keine Investitionssicherheit hat.

“Wenn die Leute bei Gartner und ntv das wirklich wüssten, wären sie reich und bräuchten nicht zu arbeiten”, stellte [Rainer Janßen] fest.

Bei dieser Aussage von Rainer Janßen, CIO bei der Münchner Rück, geht es wahrscheinlich um Voraussagen von Gartner zu IT Märkten. Ob ntv auch solche Voraussagen trifft, ist mir nicht bekannt, wundern würde es mich allerdings. Jedenfalls habe ich noch keinen IT Analysten von ntv getroffen.

Was Janßen allerdings entgeht, ist die Tatsache, daß wir als Analysten gar nicht in Firmen unserer Coverage investieren dürfen. Das bedeutet, daß selbst wenn wir nicht-öffentliche Informationen haben, zum Beispiel auf Basis eines Non-Disclosure Agreements, können wir sie nicht verwenden um eventuell Aktien des Unternehmens zu kaufen oder zu verkaufen, weil wir eine bestimmte Richtung des Aktienkurses erwarten. Hier ist Janßen einfach unzureichend informiert.

Die Münchner Rück ist natürlich “reich” im Sinne des Geschäftsergebnisses, investiert große Summen in Informationstechnologie und beschäftigt ganze Abteilungen von Statistikern, aber auch hier wurden in der Vergangenheit Verluste eingefahren, weil eben die Voraussagen und Annahmen nicht stimmten. Erdbeben, Tsunamis und andere Katastrophen lassen sich eben nur eingeschränkt vorhersagen. Deswegen vertraut der Rückversicherer auch nicht auf Tarot Karten und Wünschelruten, sondern baut auf harte Fakten und Daten, aber kalkuliert gleichzeitig auch unsichere Voraussagen und ein damit verbundenes Restrisiko mit ein. Ein Analyst macht das nicht anders.

“Gartner-Analysten glaube ich erst, wenn ihr Honorar erfolgsabhängig ist, wenn sie mir also was zurückzahlen, wenn es kein guter Tipp war. So lang es das nicht gibt, denke ich lieber selbst.”

Wenn Janßen den Gartner Analysten nicht glauben will, ist das völlig in Ordnung. Er befürchtet anscheinend, daß wir für ihn irgendwelche (potentiell falschen) Entscheidungen treffen. Das tut ein Gartner Analyst grundsätzlich nicht. Der Kunde muß schon selbst entscheiden und beurteilen, welchen Stellenwert die Gartner-Aussage in einem gegebenen Kontext hat. Insofern ist “selber denken” durchaus angebracht. Gartner vertritt eine Meinung und wir geben auch Empfehlungen ab, allerdings nicht in der Form “Kaufen Sie das Tool von Hersteller XY und alles wird gut.” Darüberhinaus ist der Erfolg einer Implementierung ja nicht von dem gekauften Tool allein abhängig, sondern von einer ganzen Reihe von Parametern, auf die Gartner überhaupt keinen Einfluß hat. Daher kann das Honorar auch nicht erfolgsabhängig sein. Würde die Münchner Rück einen Prozentsatz des Gewinns an Gartner abtreten, wenn eine Empfehlung zu einer erfolgreichen Implementierung geführt hat? Sicher nicht.

Schließlich schlug Friedrich Fröschl vor, Systeme, die kaum genutzt werden und bloß noch vor sich hindümpeln, einfach abzuschalten. Ohne Vorwarnung. Und dann mal gucken, ob sich einer wehrt.

Diese “Empfehlung” ist zwar nicht auf Gartner gemünzt, trotzdem halte ich es für angemessen, vor solchen Schüssen aus der Hüfte zu warnen. Es klingt vielleicht lustig, aber bewußt einem aktiven System den Saft abzudrehen, ist grob fahrlässig. Eine Konsolidierung von Systemen macht sicher in vielen Fällen Sinn, aber um eine ordentliche Analyse des Benutzerverhaltens und des Systemprofils kommt man nicht herum.

Diese Aussage ist in etwa so hilfreich wie die Empfehlung “Wenn Sie wissen wollen, ob der Airbag ihres Autos funktioniert, fahren Sie doch mal mit 100 km/h gegen eine Wand.” Mit solchen Parolen erntet man vielleicht einen Lacher bei einer lockeren Diskussionsrunde, aber nicht unbedingt Respekt.

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Category: Analyst CIO Current Events Gartner Magic Quadrant     Tags: , , ,

The Flight of the Wannabees

by Andy Bitterer  |  February 18, 2009  |  7 Comments

What really annoys me is when people make public claims about things that they have clearly no clue about. Facts or the truth don’t seem to matter anymore, all that counts is bold verbiage. There could be multiple reasons for this behavior: Maybe some people are too lazy to do proper research before raising their voice. Maybe it’s their sole raison d’etre. Or they want readers to raise their eyebrows. Or they even want to raise hell for no apparent reason. Whatever the raisin, … uh, enough of this, I’m getting sidetracked.

So what is this posting about? It seems, after the wide-spread publicity of the open discussion with Talend here on this blog (thanks again for the many responses), other open-source providers apparently want to jump on the bandwagon and voice their dismay about not being recognized, or not being included in a magic quadrant, or not being taken seriously by Gartner analysts, or whatever. Now, there are multiple ways of engaging a Gartner analyst: a simple briefing request, an equally open discussion with the facts on the table, or, and that alternative seem to be sometimes preferred, start kicking and screaming.

The latest in this series is Patrick Beaucamp (what is it with these French open source guys?), who is responsible for Vanilla, another open-source BI project. On his blog, Patrick takes out a shotgun and fires away at everything that moves, and some shrapnel came flying my way. The title of the post is “10 reasons to launch Vanilla BI platform”, but the content more looks like a random selection of insults. I will not spend any time here to comment on most of those, but I will respond to the bitching directed to Gartner or myself.

7) to be certain not to be listed in Gartner’s annuel Quadrant (see Talend comment on Gartner) or my post on decideo.

I don’t get this. You are launching Vanilla “to be certain not to be listed” in a Magic Quadrant. Weird, particularly when I continue reading through the next sentence, in which you complain that Gartner wouldn’t be tracking you.

Honestly, people from Gartner … please, last year you missed the Big Crunch in commercial BI and you wrote Open Source BI was not mature enough … how can you put under silence platform such as Talend and Vanilla ?

Honestly, Patrick, I don’t think you’re making any sense. We missed what? The “Big Crunch”? Oh please, do you make this up? I’d suggest that you’ll be a little more specific next time. And to your point, Open Source BI sure is mature enough for many things, just not for everything. Btw, this is not new, we’ve been saying this for a few years. Finally, we are “putting under silence” Talend and Vanilla? First of all, there is an obvious difference between the maturity of Talend and Vanilla. Talend has some traction in the market, decent brand recognition, (Yves, are you reading this?) and we sure didn’t put any mufflers on the company. On the other hand, Vanilla is largely irrelevant (at this point in time). So if it’s too silent around Vanilla for your own taste, don’t blame Gartner for that fact, as it is your own job to get the word out. You guys don’t even have a real website and we are not your marketing department. So before you start blaming others, I’d suggest you do your homework first.

to read answer to Talend post from Gartner analyst … Is this man really aware of what he wrote ? are we leaving in the same world ? For those who just read this just, please note that Pentaho and JasperSoft – 2 american companies – entered Magic Quandrant just 1 year after the launched their solution …

“This man”, I am assuming that would be me. I can confirm that I was aware of what I wrote. Still am, in fact. Got that? However, it sure seems as if we are living in different worlds. In my world, both Pentaho and Jaspersoft have not entered the Magic Quadrant (for BI Platforms), not one year after launch nor any other year. Again, do your homework and stop distributing nonsense, Patrick.

… to be in an Analyst study, it’s very easy : you just have to pay !

As far as Gartner is concerned, I would qualify this as a “Bold Statement”, or B.S. for short.

One final comment: It is clearly everybody’s right and own decision to select the most appropriate way to start a dialogue. The “Vanilla way” would not have been my preference, as it comes across as rather unprofessional. I always welcome a proper discussion about technology, markets, opportunities and the like, and I’d never shut out small start-ups, but I have no interest in a dispute a la Vanilla. Take your pick.

P.S. I like Rimsky-Korsakov.

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Category: Business Intelligence Gartner Magic Quadrant Market Open Source Technology Uncategorized Vendors     Tags: , ,

Final preparation for The Hague

by Andy Bitterer  |  January 13, 2009  |  Comments Off

It’s that time of the year again, when many people from around the world gather in one place to discuss business intelligence, data warehousing, data quality, master data management, data integration, performance management, and so on. No, I’m not trying to get all buzzwords in (as there are tons more), just to highlight how broad the conference has become. Of course, I’m talking about the 2009 Gartner BI Summit. Or should I say, the Gartner BIDIDQMDMEADMCPMDWDBMS Summit? My co-chair Nigel Rayner and I have put together another dense agenda where we tried to do justice to all the important subjects that organizations face today.

To cover all those topics, we bring in 20 analysts, the local EMEA folks as well as our colleagues from the US and as far as Brazil. Add to that, a large number of clients talking about their specific success stories, presentatoins by the sponsors, a variety of panels, breakouts my McKinsey, hands-on tech labs, it is going to be another intense event. I am looking forward to meeting many of you, in 1on1 sessions, over breakfast, lunch, dinner, a fly-by coffee or during the reception, with a glass of wine to toast to the new US President.

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Category: Current Events Gartner     Tags: , , , , ,

Setting the Record Straight

by Andy Bitterer  |  December 28, 2008  |  23 Comments

Caution: Long post, but lots to say…

Not often, a vendor reacts with a blog posting to the publication of a Gartner document. Press releases, yes, and a lot, kinda like “Company XYZ announces that a leading analyst firm has placed it in the leaders quadrant of the ABC Magic Quadrant…” Rarely, though, do we see a posting directly referring to a magic quadrant, particularly from a vendor that wasn’t included. (Draw your own conclusions.)

Yves de Montcheuil, VP of marketing at Talend, did just that on his blog, where he commented on the latest data integration magic quadrant. I never met Yves, only talked to him on the phone a few times, and I have likewise a lot of respect for him, just like he wrote he has for the Gartner analysts who authored the Magic Quadrant for Data Integration Tools. In his post, Yves makes a few statements that call for a response, as they indicate a distorted perspective on the authors’ view and some other comments are just plain wrong.

No surprise, Gartner’s analyses are still very conservative

If this means that we are not jumping on every new idea and announce it as the silver bullet, then yes, we are conservative. It does not mean, though, that we are turning a blind eye on new developments. Quite the contrary, in fact, as demonstrated by the large number of tiny and often virtually unknown vendors that are featured as a “Cool Vendor”.

Their analysts use mostly their rearview mirror, to look at what happened behind them, whereas they should have a radar to see what’s happening around them and ahead of them.

This is rather meaningless to me, because it’s rather irrelevant what was “happening behind me“, or is “happening ahead of me“. Of course, we are evaluating each vendor’s past, present, and potential future. As an author of any magic quadrant, what the analyst is looking at, and that is clearly communicated to every vendor that is potentially included, are not only things such as product capablities,  but also revenues, sales, marketing, support, alliances, or their financial position. I’m sure, even Yves would agree that those criteria are more backwards looking, as they describe a track record, which, by definition, is always looking at the past. A “future track record” does not exist, with radar or without. And “future revenues” are fairy tales.

… the Magic Quadrant reflects past adoption of certain technologies by large accounts in the US, who are customers of Gartner.

Wrong on all accounts. The MQ is not an adoption map. It has nothing to do with the size of the company. The MQ does not have a US focus. And finally, surveyed companies do not have to be a Gartner client.

Updated every 18 to 24 months and reflecting the long cycles of traditional vendors, who used to take years before their could achieve a significant position on a market

Wrong again. This MQ is updated every year, and Yves should know that. And the MQ is definitely not reflecting sales or product cycles from anybody.

This quadrant includes a combination of dying technologies which have been acquired over and over again (ETI, Open Text’s Genio…), loading utilities (Syncsort, Pervasive, Sybase’s Solonde…) and real enterprise solutions (Informatica, IBM’s DataStage). One component is missing: open source – of course.

I may be repeating myself here, but for every MQ there is a pre-defined set of inclusion criteria, and every vendor that meets those criteria, will be included. Period. Whether they have been acquired a gazillion times (not sure, why that matters), sell “dying technology” (as Yves puts it, well, it’s his job as marketier to knock the competition) or sell products that are made from clay. It does not matter, as long as they match the criteria. And open source vendors are not “missing, of course”, but because not one of them can meet those set criteria (to date). We are even changing the inclusion criteria to make it possible at all for open source vendors to be evaluated. If we would stick with “minimum license revenue of 20M USD” (I picked an arbitrary figure!) as one of the inclusion criteria, it’s hard to see how any open source data integration tools vendor would make the MQ any time soon, as they typically don’t license the software. Because this wouldn’t be fair to open source vendors, we use a figure for “minimum total revenue” instead (only for open source vendors, that generate revenues mostly from service subscriptions), so they have at least a chance of being included in the MQ. If the vendor does not make those figures, they are still out. Nobody gets included for good will.

Some would say that open source vendors cannot afford to pay Gartner (I personally don’t think it makes a difference). This may be true for some vendors. But in our case, Talend is a commercial vendor with strong resources and could afford a contract with Gartner.

Ah, the old mis-perception. Being included in any MQ (not just for data integration tools) is in no way depending on being a Gartner client. I’m happy to see that you don’t think it makes a difference. Because it doesn’t.

But why? To hear that “open source is immature (probability 0.9) and will become mature in 5 to 20 years (probability 0.8)”?

That is funny. But Yves made that up, of course. Interesting though is, that Yves makes the connection between Talend’s exclusion in the MQ and general open source maturity. I think that’s a bit of a stretch, as there are many technology areas that are considered mature (operating system, web servers, app servers, DBMS, to name a few), but data integration is just not there yet, according to our data from user surveys. Yves himself has provided reference accounts of Talend users for our open source data integration survey.

No thanks. We know, and our clients know, that open source has changed a lot over the past years and has become a true alternative for the enterprise (probability 1.0). Maybe even Gartner will realize this one day (probability 0.2)!

We are not disagreeing at all, that “open source has changed a lot”, but that’s not the point. We are also realizing that open source tools (of many kinds) are used in small, medium and large enterprises. All of these things are definitely taken into consideration when we evaluate open source, as we update the MQ again next year. Equally, we will be looking how the rest of the data integration market has developed, as open source does not exist in a vacuum. Criteria may change, too.  Until then, I hope this clarifies the 2008 version of the data integration MQ, even for Yves. Probability … uh.. never mind. We stopped using those probabilities quite some time ago, anyway.

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Category: Data Integration ETL Gartner Magic Quadrant Open Source Technology Uncategorized Vendors     Tags: , , ,

Wanted: Product Liability for Financial Products

by Andy Bitterer  |  October 23, 2008  |  4 Comments

Of course, there is no point locking the barn door now, since the horse has bolted. I’m talking about those billions of dollars and euros being spent to save banks. In a nutshell, what caused the market meltdown were banks selling products and approving loans that came with an enormous risk, and unfortunately, that risk became reality. Sure, there were lots of people out there that should have never been given a loan, because they didn’t understand what an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) is. But, of course, bankers pushed those loans down people’s throats to get a commission and generate revenue. And here is where I think the industry is missing something. Who is liable for the dangerous products the banker sold?

If you buy a coffee maker, or a toaster, or a lawn mower, pretty much anything, the manufacturer is liable for any injuries that product may have caused. As far as I can see, this is always focused on “bodily injury”… why? If someone loses the house, car, or job, because the “bank product” just imploded, isn’t that another injury caused by negligence?

“This plastic bag is not a toy.” or “Do not place animals into the microwave.” Duh. Everybody understands that. (At least I hope so). Where is the disclaimer on those “banking products” that hardly anybody (including the bankers themselves) understands. Where does it say “this derivative has a risk score of 89 (out of 100)” on a scale that says “you could lose that money”? Would people be more careful if they knew what they were getting into? I think so. But they just took the banker’s word for it. No data was made available to back up those claims.

Where was the bank’s risk management? Oh right, it was focused on the customer. If there was a product liability for banks, I’m sure the bankers would have been a little more hesitant with those loans. The data was all there, but nobody wanted to look. I’m hoping that the lawmakers in those governments in the US, the EU, Japan, Korea, and others, that are bailing out the financial institutions at the moment, are considering to extend the current liability law into the financial world.

If I’m reading this description from Wikipedia with banking products in mind, that would make a good start.

“The most fundamental rationale for strict liability is to force producers to internalize the external costs they impose on society. By placing liability for all injuries caused by a product on its manufacturer, the manufacturer is forced to take into account, when deciding whether and how much to produce the product, the harm caused by it. If this internalized harm is so great that the manufacturer cannot profit from producing the product, it will discontinue the product, or sell it only at a higher price to consumers who value it especially highly (in economic terms, modify its activity level). In this way, strict liability provides a mechanism for ensuring that the societal good of products in the marketplace outweighs their societal harm.”

Disclaimer: I’m no financial specialist, just an observer.

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Category: Current Events Finance Market Politics     Tags: , , ,

Same Old Business Intelligence

by Andy Bitterer  |  October 21, 2008  |  11 Comments

I must have attended a few dozen BI vendor conferences large and small over the years and sat through many hundred BI briefings. And I have to admit, that my expectations have largely decreased over time. Maybe it’s because the market is considered mature, maybe because I have heard every possible marketing claim, maybe I’ve been around the block a few times. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m missing something.

Sure, the BI market has enjoyed consistent growth, has seen a lot of action on the M&A front, technology has advanced significantly (I remember when gigabytes were considered wild), and yet we are still discussing same old business intelligence. I keep hearing vendors announce that the next version of their tool will be able to address that untapped market within their customer base, growing penetration beyond those 10-15% that are using BI today. I heard this 5 years ago already, but what has changed since then? Not much.

So the tools have a nicer UI, can scale up and scale out, are interactive, and can be mashed, and so on. And yet, BI licenses are not really flying off the shelves because of all the new cool stuff that is available. So the vendors started buying up and down the stack, into performance management, data integration, master data management, data quality, etc.  Technology advanced towards in-memory analytics, data warehouses grew into petabyte range (not many yet, but still quite the accomplishment), Web 2.0 technology allows to build mashups from Google Earth and heatmaps and alerts and visualize the whole thing on an iPhone. What does it all help if people think what they want are “reports”? Ugh.

Here’s the thing. We have done Integration (or at least we are underway): IBM integrates Cognos, Applix, Ascential, DWL, Unicorn,.. SAP integrates Business Objects, Pilot, Firstlogic, Fuzzy, Outlooksoft, Cartesis,… Microsoft integrates Stratature, Datallegro, Zoomix,… Oracle integrates all the rest, Siebel, PeopleSoft, Hyperion, Sunopsis, BEA.

We have done Innovation. Compared to the old days of “management reporting”, new available technology is to die for, from wildly scalable data warehouse appliances, to predictive modeling and mobile BI, all based on SOA, then delivered through software-as-a-service, or through open source license models.

What’s missing is Inspiration. It does look like potential buyers are caught in the “reporting web”, users seem to be largely oblivious to the current developments, and so the great potential value of BI is simply missed because of a lack of BI exposure. Of course, it doesn’t help if attendees at said conferences are bombarded with tech talk about the next great feature. But nobody enables the potential BI users to think outside the “reporting box” and answer the question “what would happen if BI could do that?”

I, for one, can’t say that I’m truly inspired by the messages from the BI vendors. But that’s just me.

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Category: Business Intelligence Gartner Market     Tags: , , , ,

Oracle Logo on Racks?

by Andy Bitterer  |  September 25, 2008  |  Comments Off

With yesterday’s announcement of the Oracle Exadata Storage Appliance, Oracle essentially became a hardware vendor… well, sort of. With the help of their friends across Highway 101, Oracle leverages HP hardware, apparently servers and storage, Infiniband, its own 11g DBMS plus ASM and wraps it into a massively parallel database grid. So far so good.

Exadata… cute. Because Terabytes on Teradata are already out there. Petabytes on Petadata (“Pet a data?”) isn’t visionary enough, so we need another factor 1000, with Exabytes on Exadata. Now this is far out enough. Can you “axe a data”? OK, never mind.

Why all this? I’m assuming that Oracle executives visited many data centers in their careers and never ever saw an Oracle logo on those server racks running their very own DBMS. IBM servers, yes, HP, Dell, Teradata, EMC, all there. No Oracle. That must have been a big sting.

Oracle was already very successful getting the Oracle logo out into the world. No major airport that I go through without an onslaught of banners with Oracle is #1, Oracle serves 19 of the top 20 companies in whatever industry, Oracle, Oracle. Paris Charles de Gaulle airport has turned red because of Oracle advertising.

Next step: data center. Well, Oracle was hardly going to start manufacturing any motherboards, chipsets, or disk drives themselves, since the world wasn’t really waiting for another hardware newbie behemoth, when the whole market is consolidating at the same time. Of course, watching even Microsoft starting to acquire hardware assets (I mean, beyond the Microsoft Mouse) with the Datallegro takeover must have accelerated the decision making process to provide an Oracle-branded box with suitable capabilities, and the 11g DBMS comes to mind. So I imagine a phone call from Redwood Shores to Cupertino, kinda like “Hey, Mark, we’ve been friends for a long time, certainly after you had left Teradata <chuckle>, could we get some of your blades and storage racks and wrap them into a nice bundle with our database, so we both can take over the data warehouse market?” Something to that effect and I am obviously exaggerating somewhat.

Hewlett Packard (the hardware unit, mind you!) smells a big opportunity, as most data warehouses these days run on Oracle, so why not have them run on an HP box? Quickly, a few other components are assembled to make it a nice appliance and as painless to manage for the potential user, a name is found (rumor has it, that Larry Ellison himself is heavily involved in all branding activities), welcome, Exadata, the new enemy of Teradata (and IBM).

Wait… wasn’t HP trying to sell its own NeoView box? What was that again? Oh yes, another highly scalable data warehouse “machine”. (They don’t want us to call NeoView an “appliance”). And wasn’t that targeted as direct competition to Teradata as well? By the looks of it, Oracle just stepped on HP toes, and HP let it happen. Funny, how market dynamics sometimes work. I’m sure, the clever marketiers in both companies have all arguments ready, why this new competition is no problem on either side: “It’s good for the customer, more choices, strategic relationship, yada, yada, yada.” However, when it comes to “our revenue” or “no revenue”, I can guarantee that both Oracle and HP favor the first option, which turns the friendship into plain competition. As we say in German: “Beim Geld hört die Freundschaft auf”. Means something like „Friendship ends where money begins“.

We’ll be watching and reporting on developments. Until then, welcome to hardware land, Oracle.

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Category: Business Intelligence Current Events Market Politics Vendors     Tags: , , , , , ,

When Data isn’t Data yet

by Andy Bitterer  |  September 18, 2008  |  2 Comments

Sometimes it helps talking to a different set of clients to get a reality check. In my world, where all that’s needed is broadband and an airport (I’m exaggerating a little here) it is really helpful to get a new perspective on how our clients are grappling with day-to-day issues.

I recently met with a representative from the education department of a large African city. They wanted to do BI, getting reports on students, classes, teachers, grades, and so on. Now, I learned to be more careful with my advice in places like Africa, as some parts of the infrastructure aren’t comparable with European standards. So I didn’t recommend putting in a big honking data warehouse and some funky BI platform, as I knew (a) the budgets wouldn’t be there, (b) skills would be an issue, and (c) data volumes wouldn’t warrant such an investment.

So I started slowly and asked what kind of reports they’d be expecting to create, what applications and data sources they’d be tapping, how much data, how many potential users, and that sort of thing.

The lady from the education department said they wanted, for example, to get some “teacher reports” and what teachers were more successful, as indicated by better grades of their students. Easy enough I thought. Boy, was I wrong, as there was one problem: There wasn’t any data.

Apparently, the department wanted to know “which teacher is actually physically in the classroom?” or “what topics are those teachers actually discussing in class?”. Kinda different set of problem, compared to the run-of-the-mill inquiries on BI. So I suggested having some employees do regular rounds in the schools to monitor attendance, and create some data by recording their observations in … uh … Excel, at least for the time being. Never thought I would do such a thing. Good reality check.

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Brazil as BI strategists?

by Andy Bitterer  |  September 17, 2008  |  1 Comment

Wherever I go to present on BI issues, such as technology, M&A, best practices, organizational issues, market development or else, one of my questions to the audience is “Who has a BI strategy?” and the typical response is fairly consistent. In most European or North American audiences, only about 2% of surveyed participants admit they have a BI strategy. Now, I don’t know whether those are any good, complete, or actionable, but it’s interesting nevertheless.

I asked the same question yesterday afternoon at the Gartner Future of IT conference in Sao Paulo, and, what do you know, more than 10% claimed to have a BI strategy. Still not the number I’d like to see, but significantly higher than in Chicago, Cologne, Copenhagen or Cape Town. I gotta have a closer look at those strategies.

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